SEATTLE — Kristine Nannini spent her summer creating wall charts and student data sheets for her fifth grade class – and making $24,000 online by selling those same materials to other teachers.

Teachers like Nannini are making extra money providing materials to their cash-strapped and time-limited colleagues on curriculum sharing sites like teacherspayteachers.com, providing an alternative to more traditional – and generally more expensive – school supply stores. Many districts, teachers and parents say these sites are saving teachers time and money, and giving educators a quick way to make extra income.

There is a lot of money to potentially be made. Deanna Jump, a first-grade teacher at Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Macon, Ga., is teacherspayteachers.com's top seller, earning about $1 million in sales over the past two years. She believes the site has been successful because educators are looking for new ways to engage their students, and the materials are relatively inexpensive and move beyond textbooks

"I want kids to be so excited about what they're learning that they can't wait to tell mom and dad," she says.

Dozens of Internet forums have been created to help teachers distribute their material and pick up ideas from other educators. Teacherspayteachers.com is one of the biggest. It was started by a former teacher in New York in 2006 and quickly grew. Others followed, like the sharemylesson.com run by the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union, where free curriculum ideas and materials are offered.

While most characterize these sites as an inexpensive way for teachers to supplement textbook materials, some teachers may get pushback from administrators for their entrepreneurial efforts.

Seattle Public Schools' recently revised its ethics policy, with the new policy prohibiting teachers from selling anything they developed on district time, said district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel.

"Anything created on their own time could also cross a gray line, depending on the item and how closely tied it is to classroom work," she said.

Teacherspayteachers.com currently has about 300,000 items for sale plus more than 50,000 free items.

All told, more than 1 million teachers have bought or sold items on teacherspayteachers.com since it began. Teachers had $5 million in sales during August and September, said site founder Paul Edelman. After paying the site fees, teachers have collectively earned more than $14 million on the site since it was founded.

At all of the websites, the quality varies. Jump said she learned over the years that her colleagues – and their students – are only interested in professional-looking materials that offer the kind of information and instruction they need. Teachers are able to rate items offered for purchase or distribution.

Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies, despite receiving a few hundred dollars a year for that purpose from their districts. Increasingly, teachers say, they are going to these curriculum sharing sites to look for materials like the ones Nannini and Jump made available because their funds go further than at traditional school supply stores.

"I guess I've created something that everyone really needs," said Nannini, a Grand Blanc, Mich., teacher who just started her fourth year in the classroom.

Jump has made a lot of her money selling science curriculum for the early grades, helping her colleagues teach 7-year-olds about scientific discovery. She has split her earnings between her family, charity and her school, including buying one classroom a smart board.

Stephen Wakefield, spokesman for ASCD, a prominent teacher training organization that has a blog promoting ways for teachers to get help online, said no national organizations approve or rate the multitude of online curricula available to teachers. However many offer lists of places for teachers to explore, he said.

Kathy Smith, a Seattle parent with two daughters in public school, says she knows teachers get materials from a variety of sources and she trusts them to make good decisions about what they choose to share with their students.

"I've got a lot of faith in teachers," she said. "I don't see any problem using computer sites for supplementation at all."

Becky Smith, a special education teacher from rural Alabama, says everything she has gotten off teacherspayteachers.com has been free. Smith says the website saves her driving time and cash, because she can buy only what she needs – not a $20 workbook filled with a variety of things.

She also likes the idea of supporting other teachers, not corporations.

"I was on there for hours just looking for things before school started," she said.

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Contact Donna Blankinship through Twitter at https://twitter.com/dgblankinship

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  • 1. Modern school supplies

    Gone are the days when students were set for school with a three-ring binder and some No. 2 pencils. Now, parents say they're making expensive runs to local craft stores each time a project is assigned and are even furnishing their students with their own laptops. "You have to have a computer, and then you have to have the programs the school runs," says Jodi Drange, a parent from Montana whose daughter goes to <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/montana/districts/laurel-h-s/laurel-high-school-12096" target="_hplink">Laurel High School.</a> "They never have enough time at school [for assignments] and they won't get their project turned in unless they can work on it at home." If your child needs a laptop, consider a refurbished model that can be significantly less expensive, Florida parent Krause recommends.

  • 2. Extracurriculars

    For the Krauses, costs of the fall play, the spring musical, and a trip for a thespian group competition were straining the family's budget. "[My daughter] was talking about also wanting to get into softball, and we were like, 'Well, we don't know if we can afford the equipment if you want to continue to do drama,'" Krause says. "It's getting ridiculous, cost-wise, to continue to fund all these things through the school." Participation in important but increasingly costly after-school programs may necessitate a family conversation, says Carol Ranft, a mother who lives within Georgia's <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/georgia/districts/gwinnett-county-public-schools" target="_hplink">Gwinnett County Public Schools</a> district and who was paying $450 a year for her son to play lacrosse. "I think that's probably one of the bigger questions for parents: As the cost of those kinds of activities increase, are their students willing to put in their time and effort into a cause or an activity?" Ranft asks. "Is it as worthwhile to them for their time as it is for the parents' cost?"

  • 3. College prep

    It's important for college-bound high schoolers to be ready for their next step, but taking Advanced Placement tests, which cost $87 each, PSATs ($14), and SATs and ACTs ($49 and at least $34, respectively) can get expensive. [Get tips on <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/test-prep" target="_hplink">college test prep</a>.] "Fifty dollars doesn't seem that bad, but most kids take [the SAT] two or three times before they <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/applying" target="_hplink"> apply to college,</a> so that can add up," notes Karen Schoonover, chief academic officer and principal of Pennsylvania's <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/pennsylvania/districts/new-hope-academy-cs/new-hope-academy-cs-16756" target="_hplink">New Hope Academy Charter School,</a> where low-income students get test fee waivers. If testing costs will be an issue for you, investigate waiver options with your school's guidance counselor, Schoonover recommends. Schoonover's daughter took college prep further, with subsequent costs. Through a dual enrollment program at <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/pennsylvania/districts/west-york-area-sd/west-york-area-senior-high-school-17432" target="_hplink">West York Area Senior High School,</a> she took college courses for $250 each, amassing 17 credits by graduation--which would have cost about $12,000 to earn at a university, her mother estimates. "It saved me a lot of money in the long run," Schoonover says. "I wasn't really prepared in her junior year to start writing checks for tuition, though."

  • 4. Transportation

    Even getting to and from school can get pricey. Confronted with the option to pay $1,500 a year for a school bus to come, the Krause family decided to drive their daughter both ways each day instead--a cost of about $150 a week, Krause estimates. For students who have a bus option but would prefer to transport themselves, there may be an additional cost, too: "If you're a senior and you're looking forward to driving your car and parking at a high school lot, parking fees have gone up," AASA's Domenech notes.

  • 5. Special occasions

    From senior trips to prom tickets, parents may find themselves opening up their wallets frequently--or facing the crestfallen faces of their teens when they hear the word "no." Even graduating from public high school can be costly once gowns, caps, tassels, and ceremony tickets are purchased. "I know this is all optional, but it's part of the high school experience, and it's all hidden costs," says Yvonne Johnson, a Delaware parent whose daughter goes to the <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/delaware/districts/charter-school-of-wilmington/the-charter-school-of-wilmington-4580" target="_hplink">Charter School of Wilmington.</a> "It's not always easy to say no to them, [but my daughter's] going to college, and you've got think about all those expenses." [Find out <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2011/09/13/get-your-kids-financially-ready-for-college-early" target="_hplink">how to talk to your children about money</a>.] The balance of costs and involvement will differ for each family, as you work as a team to figure out what you can pay for--and what you think you should. For the Montana-based Drange family, for instance, having no money saved for college was "the trade-off," mother Jodi reasons. "My kids are super, super involved in everything--I just think it's part of a well-rounded education, so we pay," Drange says. "We might not to do this or that, you know, 'cause I think the kids comes first in our lives."